Digital experience is the new boardroom metric


By Joe Byrne, CTO Advisor, Cisco Observability
Wednesday, 20 March, 2024

Digital experience is the new boardroom metric

Digital experience has become a pressing concern for C-level executives in every industry. With applications and digital services now the front door for most organisations, business leaders know that they need to be delivering exceptional and seamless digital experiences in order to gain market share and drive growth.

According to recent research from Cisco, the performance of business-critical applications and digital services, and their impact on the business, is now reported to C-level executives on a consistent basis within 80% of organisations. Digital experience is increasingly establishing itself as a key item on the boardroom agenda.

Crucially, what business leaders really want to understand is not just how applications are performing, but how they are driving business value. They’re looking to understand how new innovations are engaging customers and driving revenue. And at the same time, C-level executives know that any drop-off in digital experience can have profound consequences, in terms of loss of customers, sales and reputation, and so they want to detect threats to application availability, performance and security. They can then direct resources to address potential issues before digital experience suffers.

In order to generate this level of insight into how application performance is impacting business outcomes, organisations need total alignment between IT and the business — something which has traditionally been a challenge for most organisations. And of course, as anybody that works in IT will know, the current shift to modern application architectures is making IT-business alignment infinitely more difficult.

With the pressure mounting to deliver innovative, seamless and secure digital experiences, and to demonstrate how application performance is creating business value, IT teams urgently need new tools and approaches to meet the demands of senior leaders.

C-level executives want to understand the business impact of digital experience

The research reveals that digital experience has become a significantly more critical issue for 75% of C-level executives over the last three years.

Business leaders want to understand the experience that customers and employees are receiving when engaging with their organisation through digital channels. They’re looking for insight into application performance to identify where applications are delivering strong business results so that they fully exploit these opportunities. At the same time, they want to identify potential issues and vulnerabilities that pose a significant threat to digital experience, in order to mitigate risk and avoid a revenue-impacting incident.

Within retail, for example, C-level executives want to be able to analyse the performance of every stage of the user journey, from sign-up and login, through to search and checkout. They want to scrutinise the speed and efficiency of every phase of the workflow, in order to optimise performance and identify opportunities and risks.

Business leaders recognise that digital experience is now critical to commercial success — and this is why they are now heaping pressure onto their IT teams to deliver enhanced digital experiences which drive tangible business results. C-level executives know that IT needs to be completely aligned to wider business strategy and objectives in order for their organisations to compete and succeed in the market. Indeed, all of the CIOs I’ve spoken to recently have told me that forging closer alignment and connection between IT and the business is now an urgent priority. In particular, they’re searching for new ways to measure and report to senior leaders on the business impact of digital experience.

Complexity is making it harder to achieve IT-business alignment

IT teams now find themselves operating under the spotlight, with senior leaders pushing them to deliver ever more intuitive, personalised and seamless digital experiences — and to show how applications and digital services are creating value.

The problem is, however, that the vast majority don’t have the tools and insights they need to effectively manage application availability, performance and security, nor to contextualise application data with business metrics. This means they’re struggling to maintain seamless digital experiences and they’re unable to show C-level executives how applications are impacting the business.

The shift to modern application architectures, built on cloud-native technologies, has resulted in soaring levels of complexity in the IT department. Technologists are struggling to manage an increasingly sprawling and volatile IT estate, with most still relying on multiple, siloed monitoring tools across their applications and underlying infrastructure. They have no clear line of sight for applications running across hybrid environments and therefore it’s becoming almost impossible to detect issues, understand root causes and apply fixes before digital experience is affected.

Despite their best efforts, technologists simply can’t do their jobs. And as a result, the likelihood of applications and digital services suffering disruption and downtime is growing significantly.

This lack of unified visibility across applications and underlying infrastructure also means that IT teams have no way of tracking the business impact of applications. They’re unable to demonstrate how digital experience (whether good or bad) is affecting business outcomes — which is exactly what C-level executives are demanding to know.

Full-stack observability is essential for IT-business alignment

The answer to this growing challenge in the IT department is full-stack observability. It provides technologists with real-time insights into availability, performance and security up and down the IT stack, from customer-facing applications right through to core infrastructure, across both cloud-native and on-premises environments. This allows IT teams to quickly identify issues, understand root causes and apply fixes, before customers are affected.

Full-stack observability also enables technologists to correlate IT performance data with real-time business metrics. This means they can easily pinpoint and prioritise the issues that have the potential to do serious damage to experience.

Significantly — given the need for complete IT-business alignment — linking application data to business KPIs means that full-stack observability enables organisations to track, measure and report on the impact that applications and digital services are having on the business.

With full-stack observability, IT teams can provide business leaders with a comprehensive set of metrics and insights related to experience — from number of unique sessions, average revenue per session and average revenue per transaction, through to ‘revenue at risk’ from potential outages and overall user experience (based on defined workflows).

Ultimately, full-stack observability helps to establish a common language between IT and business stakeholders and creates the foundation for IT to operate in total alignment with wider business strategy. For business leaders looking to accelerate growth through their digital channels, full-stack observability is now mission-critical.

Top image credit: Wackerhausen

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